Pulses education in Australia’s Wimmera district

This blogpost was written by Jeanie Clark, enviroed4all®.

For the 2016 International Year of Pulses (IYP), Jeanie Clark, enviroed4all®organized a pulse education program involving 300 Wimmera primary students, their 28 teachers/aides and some 25 parent farmers.

What is the goal of IYP?

The first aim of the IYP is to raise awareness and knowledge of pulses. What is there to learn about ‘pulses’? The first thing is that there are two meanings of the word. At the start of the IYP program, hardly any children knew that one meaning of ‘pulses’ refers to seeds of plants! By the end of the sessions, all had seen that pulses are seeds with two halves that grow into a plant which 1) makes seeds for its next generation, 2) has seeds that are a healthy food for people around the world to eat and 3) has roots that feed the soil, so they are important for farmers too. 

Which pulses did children learn about?

The children learned about the five pulses commonly grown in Southern Australia’s Wimmera –Mallee district: chick peas, faba beans, field peas, lentils and lupins. One of the most enjoyable activities in the program was the simple science activity of placing each of these types of pulses into big tubs, reaching in to feel and describe them.

The most common descriptions were smooth and hard. However, students also described the pulses as pebbly, cold, small and weird. Many groups ended the activity by creating artwork with the pulses, making IYP-style logos.

Some children recognized that lentils and chick peas are in foods they eat. In fact all pulses are foods. In Australia, pulses are often used as feed. However, in other parts of the world, especially the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent, pulses are widely eaten at meals. Both children and teachers were surprised to see the world map showing how much Australian crop is sold to these regions to feed people.

Farming Experiment

In the 4-session program, students grew 10 pulse seeds each for 28-days in mini-farms. This experiment was a simulation of farming so that students could see that farmers are experimental scientists who do not always have all variables under their control and who use science to help them get the best long-term- i.e. sustainable- production. Many students were excited to be solely responsible for growing their own pulse plants. The tallest ones after 28- days were field peas, over 40 cm high, while chick peas and lentils were shorter.

It has been wonderful to share our pulses with Wimmera children as part of this global year, thanks to the teachers’ interest, and the organisations which supported these activities. With 2016’s good season, it seemed as if the land was celebrating the IYP too!

The views expressed here belong to the speaker and do not necessarily represent FAO’s views, positions, strategies or opinions.


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